Survivors of domestic abuse and their children were found to be sleeping rough after being unable to find safe accommodation says charity Women’s Aid.
Women’s Aid stated that the survey of some of the most vulnerable women who have sought out help from the charity were unable to access refuge immediately, with 12% of women forced to sleep rough before making contact, including pregnant women and women with children.
The survey was conducted by Woman’s Aid, an organisation to help victims of domestic abuse. The women were supported through the No Woman Turned Away project, which works with women who were unable to secure a refuge place by contacting the national domestic violence helpline or to help those with matters such as mental health issues or child safety.
Over 260 women were asked to take part in this survey but almost half, 46% were found to be ‘sofa-surfing’ while waiting for refuge with 65 women doing this with their children. 8% of women had given up hope and went back to their abusers as a last resort.
Government funding for refuges is under threat, leading to the number of spaces available to be reduced further and an increase in more women sleeping rough.
The government plans to remove refuges and other forms of short term supported housing from the welfare. This would mean women escaping abusive partners would not be able to pay for accommodation using their housing benefits which may be the last guaranteed source of income available to refuges. This benefit makes up an average 53% of refuge funding.
Chief executive of Women’s Aid, Katie Ghose said:
“Statutory agencies need to stop putting obstacles in the way of women fleeing domestic abuse and start supporting them to safety. It is no wonder that women and their children who are literally fleeing for their lives end up sleeping rough or returning to an abusive partner if they are turned away from services that should be helping them.
“We’re calling on the government to give survivors a cast-iron guarantee that their dangerous planned changes to how refuges will be funded are firmly off the table and that refuges will be protected.
“We want to work with the government to develop a sustainable funding model for all domestic abuse support services so that every woman and child can receive the support they need to help build a life free from abuse.”
Women’s Aid believed the report showed that survivors require the specialist support provided by domestic abuse services when they are at their most vulnerable.
Nearly 100 women approached their local council for support. More than 54% were prevented from making a homeless application, which meant they were refused emergency accommodation. 23% were told they were not a priority despite having multiple vulnerabilities as well as 15% who were required to prove they were a victim of domestic abuse.
The government introduced the Domestic Violence Bill which had recently closed to consultation. It is heavily focused on criminal justice measures and includes a proposal to ban suspects from contacting their victims, drinking alcohol or taking drugs. There is also an aim to electronically tag suspects as part of a new civil protection order.
However this has been criticised by organisations such as Women’s Aid who believe these measures will be ineffective without range of services to support survivors of domestic abuse.
Emine Mehmet, Director of Family and Childcare at Duncan Lewis Solicitors states, “It is dangerous and unsafe for victims of domestic violence to go back to their abusers if they are unable to find safe alternative accommodation. The government should be aware of the fundamental problems in the system and offer to provide an effective solution for the victims and their children, who without a stable home life could lead to future generations being impacted and unable to break out of this cycle of abuse”.
Emine Mehmet has experience in all aspects of childcare and family law, including domestic violence matters, international children/cross border matters and public law children matters. She is a member of The Law Society Child Law Panel and has a significant care proceedings practice as well as a cross border practice in Hague Convention proceedings (child abduction).
For expert advice on domestic violence matters, contact Emine on 020 7275 2799 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Duncan Lewis Family Law Department
Duncan Lewis understands the sensitive situation of domestic violence and the importance of protecting victims for any further abuse. Our solicitors offer Legal Aid services to victims of domestic abuse – and can advise on how to tackle abuse within the law, including domestic abuse between partners and spouses, same sex partners and spouses, elder abuse, parent-child abuse, abuse in platonic relationships and between flatmates, psychological abuse and financial abuse.
We have offices nationwide and can advise on domestic violence under UK law and Islamic law – including advising on FGM and honour crimes, as well as advising victims of human trafficking and/or modern slavery on domestic violence or abuse.
For expert legal advice on domestic violence, call Duncan Lewis domestic violence solicitors in confidence on 0333 772 0409.
For urgent help with domestic violence or international parent-child abduction, call the Duncan Lewis 24-Hour Emergency Helpline on 0333 772 0607.
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Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors can guide clients in any matter or issues arising with local housing authorities, housing applications, tenants, landlords, ownership and repairs. The Duncan Lewis housing team specialises in representation in all social housing proceedings including reviews, appeals and judicial review relating to homelessness, disrepair, succession for tenants and neighbourhood disputes against local authorities.
If you have any housing related queries or require representation please do not hesitate to contact our team of expert solicitors on 0333 772 0409.